The press conference for next summer's Marvel movie "Guardians of the Galaxy" didn't have much in the way of really juicy news, but at least we now know for sure who the bad guy is going to be.
"We have Thanos," said director James Gunn when asked how "Guardians" fits in with the rest of the ever-growing Marvel universe, without any of the hesitation or sense of secrecy that usually comes with anyone in authority answering a Marvel-related question. "Our movie exists because of a three-second shot at the end of 'The Avengers,'" he added.
Gunn is referring, of course, to the scary-looking alien dude that cracked a cruel smile in the penultimate sequence of last summer's superhero mashup. The Avengers themselves, though, upstaged the big baddie's appearance by taking a much-needed shawarma break after the credits had rolled.
Since it was announced to be in production, "Guardians of the Galaxy" has been the subject of much speculation as a more obscure Marvel title being given the same kind of big-budget treatment as "sure things" such as "Iron Man" and "Captain America." The cast of "Guardians," however, said that the film's unique characters and premise are exactly what's going to make it exciting for audiences, whether they've been initiated or not.
"It's the 'Anti-Hero Hero Movie,'" said Zoe Saldana, getting her warrior woman on again in the role of the green-skinned Gamora. "These are thieves, rebels, assassins who come together to fight something actually much worse than them. And there's actually a lot of comedy — the levity will be abundant."
Director James Gunn is known for bringing mischievous humor to fantastical material, as he did with the gruesome horror comedy "Slither" and the decidedly more low-budget (and realistic) superhero movie, "Super." But it's not just laughs and goofs with "Guardians of the Galaxy."
[Related: James Gunn Filmography & Biography]
"This is a story of a group of strange characters coming together as a family and learning to be heroes," Gunn said, who also added that working with the kind of big budgets that come with a Marvel movie is actually much easier than working on a low-budget film, as it allows him to "hire all the best people" in bringing the story to life.
Hmm, a group of strange characters that come together as a family … so, kind of like the Avengers? "We're different than the Avengers," said Saldana. "The Guardians have much 'bigger' powers. We could totally kick Thor and Captain America's ass."
WWE legend Dave Bautista certainly agrees, though he's found a lot of humanity in his, well, hulking alien character, Drax the Destroyer.
"Drax could definitely beat up Hulk and Thor," he said. "Drax is an interesting creature. He's full of rage and he's full of honor. But the best thing about Drax is he's hysterical, without really meaning to be."
Bautista is also approaching his involvement with "Guardians of the Galaxy" with a sense of humble gratitude. "I've always tried to tell my fans to pursue their dreams, and for me this is a dream come true. I've told everyone else who's working on the film that this is all still new to me, I'm still learning, and I love it. It's the best way to stay healthy and stay young — do something you love."
Djimon Hounsou, who recently joined the cast as an original character named Koranth, also takes his being a part of the Marvel universe very seriously.
"I have a four-year-old son who loves all the superheroes, from Spider-Man to Batman, and recently he told me, 'Papa, I want to be light-skinned, because Spider-Man is light-skinned and I want to be like Spider-Man,'" he said. "That came as a shock to me, so I'm extremely excited to be a part of the Marvel universe because hopefully it will show my son that it has a such a diverse outlook on superheroes."
The only one who seems to be having a rough time of it is Chris Pratt, who plays the lead role of Peter Quill, one of the story's few human characters. The part required Pratt to trade the flabby physique of his "Parks and Recreation" character Andy Dwyer for something a lot more toned and muscular … and the process has been a difficult one.
"I did six months of training — weights, cardio, nutrition," said Pratt. "I actually cried about 40 pounds off."
[Related: Chris Pratt Picked On For Buff Selfie Pic]
Co-star Lee Pace, who plays the villainous Ronan the Accuser, said that for Pratt's birthday a few weeks ago the cast and crew presented him not with a cake but a plate of vegetables that spelled out "Happy Birthday."
"If one of them had been sharp, I would've used it to cut my wrists," joked Pratt.
Finally, the strangest story not surprisingly came from Benicio del Toro, at least as related by director Gunn. Del Toro plays the role of the Collector, a dastardly being who has his own zoo made up of various alien species from across the galaxy.
"During our first meeting, Benicio and I were discussing collecting stuff," said Gunn. "And suddenly he got very serious and turned to me and said, 'I was the first kid in my neighborhood to have an alligator.'"
After the laughter died down, del Toro himself confirmed both Gunn's story and his own childhood memory. "It's true," he said with a sly smile.
Stay tuned for casting news regarding the most bizarre characters in the "Guardians" universe, Rocket Raccoon (the gunslinging, wisecracking raccoon) and Groot (the talking tree-thing), which Gunn says will be coming "soon-ish." "Guardians of the Galaxy" will hit theaters on August 1, 2014.
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